Whatever your sporting inclination, you can do it in style in Hampshire. Now that spring has finally sprung in this most civilised of counties, the country house market has also come to life, with several substantial houses boasting enviable sporting facilities coming back to the market for the first time in many years, says buying agent Bobby Hall of The Buying Solution.
Underlining the strength at the top end of the Hampshire market, he cites the private sale, through Knight Frank, of historic Hall Place at West Meon-‘a small country estate with a special house, several cottages, land and a good family shoot’-that realised ‘well over £10 million’ earlier in the year.
Every serious trout fisherman dreams of fishing the sparkling waters of one of Hampshire’s legendary chalk streams. The sale, for the first time in 20 years, of Exton House at Exton, on the west bank of the River Meon in the South Downs National Park, includes a beat of 256m (840ft) of double bank fishing on the Meon, with the celebrated Test and Itchen rivers within easy driving distance. Other amenities include an all-weather tennis court, a swimming pool and a practice golf hole.
Exton House, £6.15m, Knight Frank
Knight Frank (01962 850333) quote a guide price of £6.15m for the handsome, stucco-fronted, late-Georgian manor, listed Grade II, with a coach house and outbuildings set in more than 13 acres of splendid formal gardens, parkland and water meadow. A pretty brick and tile-hung two/three bedroom cottage with its own garden is on offer separately at £350,000.
With its early- and mid-Victorian rear extensions, Exton House has 8,300sq ft of accommodation on three floors, including entrance and staircase halls, three main reception rooms, a large kitchen/breakfast room, master and two guest suites, three further bedrooms and a family bathroom.
In his Rural Rides (1853), William Cobbett describes Hambledon, nine miles from Petersfield in the South Downs National Park, as ‘a long straggling village lying in a little valley formed by some very pretty but not lofty hills… the environs of which are much prettier than the village itself’ and still a jealously protected AONB.
To a sportsman, however, Hambledon is better known as the ‘Cradle of Cricket’, its illustrious cricket club, formed in about 1750, being one of the oldest in the world, and England’s premier club from 1765 until the formation of the Marylebone Cricket Club in 1787.
Elegant, Grade II-listed Whitedale House, on the northern edge of the village, dates from roughly the same period, being built in two distinct but matching parts-the earlier part is Georgian and the later early-Victorian, but built in the Regency style.
Whitedale House, excess £6m, Knight Frank
Set in 21 acres of glorious formal gardens, parkland and paddocks, Whitedale is the archetypal ‘20-year family house’ that every country agent dreams of having on his books. For the present owners, who have lived there for more than 20 years, it has been a wonderful family home, providing an enchanting backdrop to two memorable family weddings. Knight Frank (01962 850333) quote a guide price of ‘excess £6m’ for timeless Whitedale House, whose 11,500sq ft of gracious living space includes a grand reception hall, four reception rooms, a billiard room, a kitchen/breakfast room, a conservatory, extensive wine cellars, master and two guest suites, three further bedrooms and two further bathrooms. Secondary buildings include a cottage and a courtyard of traditional farm buildings.
Sporting facilities include a tennis court, a swimming pool and an unusual ‘extra’-a swimming pond with a New England-style boathouse built by the owners in 2005. Its design is based on an ingenious concept of different underwater levels that create various currents and help to keep the water clear, making it infinitely preferable to swim in than an ordinary swimming pool, which also needs expensive heating.
In Victorian times, the parish of Kingsclere, between Newbury and Basingstoke, was said to be ‘too healthy to die in and too poor to live in’: nowadays, sought-after is probably nearer the mark. This is the area of Downton Abbey, Watership Down, Sydmonton polo and the Balding racing dynasty, where a network of grand estates provides some of the best shooting in Hampshire and some of the most exciting hunting, notably with the fearsome Berks and Bucks Draghounds. In short, this is no place for the faint-hearted, and probably what attracted Americans Paul and Jennifer Portz-he a first-class shot, she a keen hunting lady -to this part of the world.
Having bought, and impeccably renovated, secluded 16th-century Frobury Farm, which sits in 17 acres of lovely gardens, woodland and paddocks, half a mile from the centre of Kingsclere, the dynamic couple is now selling the property, listed Grade II, through Knight Frank (01256 350600) at a guide price of £2.875m.
Frogbury Farm, Knight Frank £2.875m
The charming, timber-framed former farmhouse, re-faced in the 18th century and altered and extended more recently, has some 5,000sq ft of living space, including a galleried reception hall, three/four reception rooms, master and guest suites and three further bedrooms. There is also a newly refurbished three-bedroom cottage. And with five smart loose boxes, adjoining paddocks and a network of bridleways on the doorstep, Frobury Farm is unquestionably ‘Hampshire heaven on horseback’.
* Follow Country Life property on Twitter